Friday Five: IBRS’ Kevin McIsaac


Every Friday we’ll profile a prominent figure from Australia’s IT, telecommunications or video gaming industries. Delimiter launched on a Wednesday though, so we had to get this one ready a bit early for the launch.

Kevin McIsaac is one of Australia’s best-known technology analysts. He currently covers a range of areas in enterprise IT as an advisor for Intelligent Business Research Services, but his career has spanned 25 years in the IT industry, with stints at the famed META Group, Computer Associates and Functional Software. And he even has a Ph.D. in Physics. We’re honoured to have him as our first guest on the Friday Five.

1. What was your first job ever?

Well in my summer holidays I use to get a job as a Brickie’ss labourer, but my first full-time job was working on yet another accounting system. Most of it was developed in Fortan and then some of it in Pascal! I was a Physics graduate so I knew Fortran but new nothing of accounting. Fortunately because we used our own database, there was a lot of low-level programing to be done fixing and improving on that!

2. What do most like about working in the IT industry?

I’m really a frustrated scientist and what I really like to do is figure out how things work. I’m my current role as an IT industry analyst I’ve really found my ideal job. I get to speak to a lot of people, both the people who create new technologies and the the people who apply it to solve business problems, and learn how the technology works and what the practical benefits are.

3. What’s your hobby?

Reading, Pilates and oddly enough, it is property investing. In property I enjoy the business challenges and the negotiation. I get a lot of creative satisfaction from building and renovating, While I don’t do the work myself, I get a lot of satisfaction from creating the end product.

4. Where do you think the Australian IT industry will be in five years?

A lot of this really depend on what happens to the global economies. I think the GFC [global financial crisis] will take longer to resolve than many people forecast, probably another 3-4 years. So I’m not expecting much dramatic change, however I’m predicting the two big infrastructure trends of this time frame are:

1. We switch from a layered components model to a systems vendor model. That is instead building separate server, storage and network layers, with each layer based on components from a dominant vendor (i.e. HP, EMC, Cisco), we purchase a complete system that includes all these layers from a single vendor. Two good example of this are the Oracle Database Machine and the work that Cisco is doing.

2. Storage will be commoditised from today proprietary hardware and storage O/S to pure commodity hardware (based on standard Intel servers, SATA and flash memory) and probably a dominant, high-volume storage O/S. You can already see some of this happening with IBMs XIV and Oracle Exadata, which use commodity hardware with a proprietary storage O/S.

The tricky part is figuring out who makes the high-volume storage O/S, that is who creates the equivalent of Windows or Linux for the storage O/S. At some stage, probably 5+years, just as Wintel/Lintel put significant margin/profitability pressure on UNIX/RISC vendors leading to Sun’s downfall, so too commodity storage will challenge EMC and NetApp, causing these companies significant issues.

5. What/who has been the biggest inspiration in your career?

Tough one. My Ph.D. supervisor Ted Maslen was an amazing man to study under and had a huge impact. The first IT salesman I worked for, Aidan Montague, really inspired me with the integrity he brought to sales. He later went on to run Cisco Australia and some overseas divisions. I have to say that Scott McNealy, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison also had a profound impact on me. The current IT landscape is really the direct result of what these 4 people acheived though their companies.